'Ideas Tour' kicks off, will visit Tupelo today

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – People presented Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, and other state House members a wide array of suggestions Monday morning during the opening of his listening tour.
Northeast Mississippians can present their ideas starting at 9 a.m. this morning when Gunn hosts a town hall-type meeting in the council chambers at Tupelo City Hall.
“This is not a debate. This is a presentation of ideas,” Gunn told about 100 people in attendance Monday at the state Capitol in the inaugural session of his “Mississippi Solutions – An Ideas Tour.”
Gunn and about a dozen legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, primarily from the Jackson area, then heard from 19 people who presented ideas. Other than Gunn setting the ground rules, no other legislator spoke.
Those speaking ran the gamut from conservative to liberal and somewhere in between. There were speakers in favor and against legislation that would expand the state’s role in trying to identify undocumented immigrants.
Laura Van Overschelde of the Central Mississippi Tea Party urged legislators to pass a state sovereignty bill, proclaiming the right of Mississippi “to govern our citizenry.”
Ed Sivak, director of the Mississippi Economic Policy Center, urged lawmakers to use a soon-to-be published study of the impact of accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid coverage in Mississippi “to reset the debate.” Gunn and many of the state Republican leaders have contended the state cannot afford the expansion even with the federal government paying the bulk of the cost.
Scott Crawford, suffering chronic incurable multiple sclerosis, said he and others needed legislation to force insurance companies to pay a greater share of the cost of medication that slows their illness. He said the drugs can cost more than $3,000 per month and the insurance companies pay only a fraction of the cost of the drugs.
Charlie Brenner, a retired librarian, suggested raising the tax on beer, which he said is below the average tax rate in other states, to provide the Department of Mental Health additional funds to treat substance abuse.
The tour made two additional stops Monday. Nine stops are planned this week.

Click video to hear audio